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April 23 2012


December 01 2011


LNG Groundhog Day: Cheniere Energy Signs Yet Another Gas Export Deal on Gulf Coast

Another day, another unconventional gas export deal signed. Nascent North American LNG (liquefied natural gas) export deals are happening so fast and furiously that it is hard to keep track of them all.

The latest: On November 21, Cheniere Energy Partners signed a 20-year LNG export deal with Gas Natural Fenosa, an energy company which operates primarily in Spain but also in such countries as Italy, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Morocco. Cheniere will maintain the Sabine Pass LNG export terminal located off of Sabine Lake between Texas and Louisiana, which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico, while Gas Natural Fenosa will ship the gas to the global market.

Cheniere, which made waves when its CEO Charif Souki announced that his corporation's business model would center exclusively around LNG export terminals, also recently signed a 20-year export deal with BG Group, short for British Gas Group.

Like the recent export deal with BG Group, which involves carrying fracked unconventional gas from various shale basins around the United States via pipelines to the Sabine Pass LNG export terminal, the Gas Natural Fenosa deal also centers around the export of gas from Sabine Pass to the global market.

This new deal will presumably center around shipment of LNG to the Latin American market, whereas the BG Group deal centers around exports to the European market.

A press release explaining the details of the deal reads, “LNG will be loaded onto Gas Natural Fenosa's vessels…[with] twenty years commencing upon the date of first commercial delivery, and an extension option of up to ten years. LNG deliveries are expected to commence in 2016.”

It is increasingly clear that export is the name of the game for the gas companies fracking all over America, exploding the industry's claims to support U.S. energy independence.

A recent Senate hearing confirmed that the industry's plans to export gas from the U.S. will raise gas prices for Americans.

So much for that oil and gas industry canard that unconventional gas fracking "promises more affordable energy for Americans."


Image Credit: Oleksandr Kalinichenko / Shutterstock

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September 15 2011


Ruling May Jeopardize 'Safe Dolphin' Label

Although the full implications are unclear, the World Trade Organization has decided that American trade rules on tuna are overly restrictive.

August 07 2011


Ocean Pours Waste from 45 Countries into Mexican Nature Reserve

This was reported in the Latin American Herald today… MEXICO – Mexican environmental authorities have found waste from at least 45 countries washed up by the ocean onto the Sian Ka’an nature reserve, located on the Mexican Caribbean and declared a World Natural Heritage Site by Unesco in 1987, official sources said Saturday.  READ HERE

April 29 2011


Mexico Oil Exports Could End Within Decade, Report Warns

Production by the national oil company has fallen 25 percent from its peak in 2004, while internal demand has climbed, sharply curtailing the amount of crude available for export.

February 15 2011


Mexico glaciers 'will melt by 2015'

Scientists worry that the glaciers on Mexico's Iztaccihuatl volcano may melt away by 2015 as a result of climate change.

December 12 2010


Cancun climate change summit: Bolivians dance to a different beat, but fail to derail the talks

As the Cancun climate change talks close, Louise Gray reports on the battle between the Bolivians and the bureaucrats.

December 11 2010


Cancun meeting reaches climate change agreement

Comprehensive global deal is now back on track after Climate change talks closed with an agreement on "green fund" to help poor countries cope with climate change and a new scheme to halt deforestation.

December 03 2010


On Our Radar: Air Pollution Paralyzes Tehran

Schools, universities, banks and government offices remained closed in Tehran on Thursday as a result of heavy air pollution, the second city-wide shutdown in two weeks. The thick haze, blamed on a weather inversion that has trapped automotive and industrial emissions over the city, has lead to a 30 percent spike in hospitalizations from respiratory illness in recent days, health officials said.

November 30 2010


Cancun Showdown: Results at the UN Climate Talks More Important Than Ever


The United Nations Climate Change talks kicked off yesterday in Cancun.  For many, the mood began much more sombrely than last year.  Copenhagen attracted celebrity clout, world leader buzz, and a sense of optimism for a binding agreement.  For all Copenhagen promised, however, those who hoped for a fair and binding global deal left empty handed.  

Along with analysts, pundits and the blogosphere, the U.S., UK and EU are already downplaying the chances of a deal being reached in the next fortnight.  And as Desmogblog reported today, those fears may not be in vain with threats that the U.S. may pull out of the talks early

The talks during the next two weeks are going to focus largely on forests and finance, but also on questions about the legal status of a future agreement and emissions targets, which are expected to be tackled beginning next week when ministers arrive.

The sense of general pessimism around the talks has led some to question the viability of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to deliver, and has led others to manufacture doubt over the scientific basis for action.  A new report released by Oxfam argues that despite the disconsolate atmosphere, a binding climate agreement under the UN auspices is imperative.  The report, More than ever: climate talks that work for those that need them most, presents the harrowing statistics on the costs of climate inaction.  

According to the report, at least 21,000 people died due to weather-related disasters in the first nine months of this year – more than twice the number for the whole of 2009.  "This year is on course to experience more extreme-weather events than the 10-year average of 770. It is one of the hottest years ever recorded," wrote Tim Gore, Oxfam's EU climate change policy adviser and report's author.


"This year has seen massive suffering and loss due to extreme weather disasters. This is likely to get worse as climate change tightens its grip. The human impacts of climate change in 2010 send a powerful reminder why progress in Cancún is more urgent than ever."

While many continue to ride a feeling of foreboding about the chances of a binding agreement this year in Cancun, the report notes (and aptly so) that now is not the time to walk away from the UN process. For millions of poor people around the world – those hit first and hardest by a crisis they did least to cause – a fair and safe deal to tackle climate change is not only urgent, but a matter of life and death. 

Oxfam's report notes some harrowing stats on the cost of inaction. Between 2010 and 2050, the World Bank estimates that developing countries will need between $70 billion and $100 billion per year to adapt to climate change. Yet every dollar that is spent on adaptation could save $60 in avoided losses.  And with a sense of foreboding already in the air in Cancun, it is important to remember that the cost of inertia will bear disproportionately on developing countries.  According to the World Bank, developing countries will bear 75-80% of costs of harmful climate change.  

The report also examines some of the countries to watch this next fortnight.  From Pakistan to China to Malawi, these countries have different strengths, experience, and perspectives that they will bring to the talks. 

To read on, download a copy of Oxfam's report below.


AttachmentSize Oxfam Media Briefing- Now More Than Ever- Climate talks that work for those who need them most.pdf977.57 KB

COP16 Climate Talks: U.S. Position May See it Leave Cancun Early

It has not taken long for the United States' diplomatic team to establish the country's hard-nosed negotiating position at the United Nations climate conference in Cancun, Mexico (COP16).  The nation's stance is so firm, it might lead the delegation to abandon the proceedings early.

In the first day of the negotiations, the United States made it clear that it would only sign on to a "balanced package" that requires certain criteria being satisfied. 

According the UK's The Guardian newspaper this criteria includes: developing nations committing to emissions cuts and the establishment of a verifiable system of accounting for these cuts.  If these features were included in a treaty, the United States would agree to the provisions that are important to emerging economies such as climate finance, technology sharing, and deforestation.

In a briefing with journalists, Todd Stern, the U.S.'s chief climate envoy, said, "We're either going to see progress across the range of issues or we're not going to see much progress.  We're not going to race forward on three issues and a take a first step on other important ones.  We're going to have to get them all moving at a similar pace."<!--break-->

The Chinese, however, have no desire to either establish a cap on emissions or an accounting system to monitor these emissions.  The Chinese feel this will hinder their economic development, and is unfair on several levels. 

China says nations like the United States have became economic juggernauts as result of the use of cheap fossil fuels; additionally, these economies have consumed high-emitting energy sources for years, and have, therefore, contributed the most to anthropogenic global warming.

These two powerhouse nations clashed over this issue last year at Copenhagen.  It took a last ditch effort of diplomacy from U.S. President Barack Obama to establish the limited Copenhagen Accord.  However, the United States and the Obama administration have lost a large amount of international clout with the failure to pass new energy policy.  And, many wonder if the current policies will allow the U.S. to meet the modest target it agreed to in Copenhagen of cutting its emissions 17% below 2005 levels.

Michael Levi, an energy and environment fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations says he would not be surprised if America's demands are not met: "There are decent odds the United States will be presented with a final package that takes action on all sorts of things that developing countries want but doesn't have any clear wins for Washington.  I wouldn't be surprised to see the US reject such an outcome, even if it means walking away with nothing and being attacked for that."

There are still roughly two weeks of negotiations left but the already deflated Cancun talks appear headed down a familiar path -- either replicating last year's negotiations, or establishing an accord that does not have the support of the world's largest power.

November 23 2010


Q&A: Cancun climate change conference 2010

More than 190 nations are meeting in Cancun, Mexico for the latest round of United Nations talks towards a global deal on stopping catastrophic climate change.

November 19 2010


U.S. Oil Imports Shrink, Yet Worries Loom

The United States imported less oil in October because it has been producing more domestically. But exploration has slowed, and environmental concerns have deepened.

November 10 2010


U.S. Dodges Bullet in Busy Hurricane Season

Using statistical analysis, scientists suggested that the chances of the United States coast being hit by a hurricane in a season this active were higher than 95 percent. But it didn't happen.

October 08 2010


Climate Change Negotiations Part Way through the Week in Tianjin

Visit NRDCs Switchboard BlogCountries meeting here in Tianjin, China are trying to make final progress before the world comes together in Cancun.  As I outlined there are some essential elements that need to be agreed in Cancun to prove to the world that this process can deliver real action, to begin to implement key elements of the international response to climate change, and to lay the foundation for further commitments beyond Cancun.  The meeting in Tianjin needs to accomplish a couple of things in order for Cancun to be a success.  So how are we doing a little over one week into the Tianjin session?  We have mixed results.

So let me start with the bad news…

Countries are talking process, not areas of agreement.  Every time we have a debate about the process in these negotiations it is a bad sign.  It means that countries are trying to find excuses not to agree to some particular item.  While many of these discussions aren’t occurring in the open, I’ve been hearing from a variety of countries that there is a lot of discussion about how to structure the discussions.  So instead of trying to unlock the key stumbling blocks, some countries are stacking more blocks on top of each other.

I’ve been in this process long enough to know that such a dynamic doesn’t necessarily last as we get into the final days.  Climate negotiators like to try to get the best deal, so this tends to mean that they hold out to the last minute.  Unfortunately, if countries don’t blink here in Tianjin then the chances of agreement in Cancun are very limited.

But there is some good news which gives me hope…

Countries aren’t backing away from their commitments to reduce emissions and mobilize financial resources to assist developing countries.  The international negotiation dynamic here in Tianjin is in stark contrast to what is happening on the ground in the key countries.  It is almost like living in an alternative universe. 

In Copenhagen, countries accounting for over 80% of the world’s emissions made specific commitments to reduce their emissions.  So given the state of play in the negotiations are countries walking away from their commitments and taking no action at home?  No.  Key countries are getting to work at home by implementing policies and programs to reduce their emissions.  We did a side-event presenting on what China is doing (where we released three new reports and a new fact sheet), discussing what India is doing, and outlining the prospects for Mexico to come to Cancun with additional actions.  NRDC joined a trip to see a pilot power plant in Tianjin—GreenGen—that will capture CO2 emissions and store these emissions underground.  And next week I’ll visit an industrial complex which we are helping to transform into a low carbon economic zone.  So things are happening on the ground.

Countries also agreed in Copenhagen that they would mobilize $30 billion from 2010-2012 to assist developing countries.  An independent assessment by the World Resources Institute shows that if countries generate the resources that they have pledged then we’ll reach this goal.  For example, the US Congressional committees have continued to support US contributions to this effort which we hope they will soon finalize in order to further unleash these resources.

Negotiators have made progress on the agreements to aid developing countries in reducing deforestation emissions, deploying clean energy, and adapting to the impacts of climate change.  While there are still some differences between key countries on these issues, the disagreements are minor in the broader dynamic of what we are trying to achieve in Cancun.  They are white noise, not ear shattering noise. 

If the transparency and finance pieces fall into place in Cancun then agreement on these issues is within reach.  Unfortunatelyin Tianjin there is still division on the transparency and finance pieces, but I continue to believe that countries can find agreement on these issues (as my colleague Barbara Finamore discusses).  After all, they need to agree on these issues in Cancun and resolving these issues is in everyone’s interest.

Still time to turn it around.  There are two days left for countries to turn around this week and therefore prospects in Cancun.  I’ve followed this long enough to know that the end game can often surprise you.  Let’s hope that countries surprise us with clear signals that they really want a positive agreement in Cancun.

October 06 2010


September 29 2010


A Push to Corral Methane Gas

The United States and Mexico try to get 38 countries to accept an expanded agreement to rein in emissions of a potent greenhouse gas.

September 14 2010


Key steps on global warming need to be agreed in Mexico later this year

This December, 194 countries will be in Cancun, Mexico to continue negotiations on international efforts to address climate change.  My colleagues and I are in Mexico City this week for a series of discussions with key government officials, NGOs, businesses, and members of the media so we’ve been reflecting on Cancun. The Cancun climate negotiation session (COP16) must serve three critical functions to ensure the continued progress on international climate change efforts and to rebuild some of the trust lost during and after Copenhagen.    

First, at Cancun, the international community needs to prove to countries and the world public that it can work together to address climate change.  It is essential that countries make some progress in Cancun and show that the international system can work.  This is paramount, as a perceived failure will make it even more difficult to build political momentum within the UN system and may lead the public and countries to disengage.

Second, Cancun needs to produce agreement on aspects of the key implementing activities to be delivered by the international agreement –e.g., clean energy technology deployment, deforestation reductions, improving the resilience of countries to the impacts of climate change, etc.  While it is unlikely that every aspect of these issues will be resolved in Cancun, it is possible to make significant progress on each of these issues at Cancun.  The notion of “nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed” must be set aside in favor of re-establishing confidence by progressively building the agreement component by component.

Third, COP16 needs to produce momentum and enough progress that COP17 (in South Africa) and the Rio 2012 Earth Summit can finalize additional commitments and implementation steps.

So what are a couple of tangible steps that countries can agree in Cancun to achieve these three aims?

1. Commitments for “Actions” and “Support”.  The meeting in Cancun needs to create the expectation that this and future meetings will focus strong political and public attention on what actions countries are taking to reduce their emissions and on what support they are offering to help deploy clean energy, reduce deforestation emissions, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Action, Action, Action.  Countries accounting for over 80% of the world’s emissions have now committed to specific actions that undertake at home to reduce their global warming pollution.  Much of the political posturing, focus of the general public and the media, and dynamics of the international negotiations is focused on what “the agreement” (or the negotiating text) has to say.  Much less attention is focused on what actions countries commit to take, what concrete steps they are taking at home to reduce their emissions, and how they could be assisted in the move to a low carbon economy.    The meeting in Cancun needs to reaffirm the expectation that countries are to implement specific actions at home and report those efforts with the international community at every subsequent meeting.  Over time this reporting should become more formal, but countries should be expected to informally report on their actions at Cancun.  Countries should have to say: “we have done nothing” or “we have taken such and such step, but need to go further”.  It is critical that we immediately create the expectation that the world is paying attention to the actions of countries, not just their words.

Focus on “Prompt Start Funding”.  In Copenhagen, developed countries committed to provide $30 billion in financing from 2010-2012 to aid developing countries in deploying clean energy, reducing deforestation emissions, and adapting to the impacts of climate change.  To build trust it is critical that developed countries show in tangible ways how their pledges to “prompt start” funding are turning into real money.  But it is also important to focus on tangible actions that are occurring on-the-ground with the money.  This dual focus will establish the expectations both that real money is generated and that tangible actions are being delivered with the money.  The recent Dutch initiative to create a website where countries report on their contribution is a good step in this direction, as is the REDD+ Partnership’s efforts to create a database where deforestation efforts are transparently reported.

2. Decisions to Show Progress on Key Issues.  It is important that countries agree in Cancun to make tangible progress by reaching agreement on some of the key aspects of the international response to climate change.  Without some tangible outcomes, countries, the general public, and key policymakers will disengage from the international negotiations.  These include the following (as I discussed here).  

MRV and Finance are Linchpins.  Resolving some aspects of monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) and finance are critical to a successful outcome in Cancun.  Without forward progress on developing country MRV, developed countries are unlikely to agree to let other issues move forward–such as REDD, adaptation, and technology.  At the same time, without progress on finance, developing countries are unlikely to allow progress on MRV.  These two issues are intertwined in the negotiations. 

Critical Implementing Actions Can be Agreed – Making progress on REDD, Technology, and Adaptation.  In Copenhagen, countries were very close to agreeing on elements of the international approach to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), clean energy deployment, and adaptation.  While there are aspects of these that are still controversial, it is possible to agree in Cancun on key elements that enable tangible action to materialize on these three critical issues.  Progress on these fronts is essential to prove to countries and the general public that the UNFCCC can move forward on tangible actions which make a real difference in the efforts to address global warming.


Countries will come to Tianjin, China next month for the next climate negotiations.  At this meeting, countries will have a choice: do they want to see progress in Cancun that moves the world forward or do they want to throw up roadblocks to progress. 

Officials in Mexico seemed cautiously optimistic, but they clearly see the uncertain path to Cancun.  The Mexican team is extremely capable as it combines Ministries and individuals with strong diplomatic skills and extensive knowledge of the key issues.  That gives me hope that they can help move the 194 countries towards some specific outcomes which move the world forward.  I’m leaving Mexico with the same cautious optimism that we sensed from the Mexican officials.


Follow me on twitter and help track countries actions to reduce their global warming pollution.

August 25 2010


BP Oil Spill Has Little Impact on Global Drilling

Regulators in other countries with heavy deepwater drilling, like Brazil and Norway, have made few changes since the April 20 accident in the Gulf of Mexico.

July 19 2010


Energy Ministers meet in US to Discuss Clean Energy: Who will be in the clean energy race?

Visit NRDCs Switchboard Blog

The race for the clean energy future comes to Washington, DC today—only symbolically if the US doesn’t seize the moment.  Energy ministers from 20 countries that account for over 80% of the world’s global warming pollution are in the US to discuss how to speed up the deployment of clean energy throughout the world, as a part of the Clean Energy MinisterialThe subplot of the meeting will be which of these countries will come out sprinting and which ones will begin by jogging in the race for the clean energy future.

The meeting hosted by the US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu will include energy ministers from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.  This is the first time that energy ministers from these key countries have focused solely on clean energy—when they typically meet they have oil, coal, and other energy sources also on their agenda.  I hope they are ambitious as this letter from leading groups emphasizes.

The race for the clean energy future is on.  The clean energy future will be a $13 trillion market over the next two decades.  The countries that enter the race by sprinting will tap into this growing demand for the technologies, industries, and the jobs of this century.  Those countries that don’t join the race or only tentatively enter (start out jogging) will be left in the dust or will come up short.  In fact, just last year alone $162 billion was invested in clean energy (as I discussed here).   

China is in the race and leading…Last year China overtook the US in clean energy investment – with $34.6 billion compared to the US at $18.6 billion.  Looking at some of the trends in key clean energy technologies such as wind and solar provides some concrete examples of China’s surge.  China’s top three domestic wind manufacturers doubled their global market share from about 12% to almost 23% from 2008 to 2009 (according to BTM Consulting).  In 2009, 50% of solar PV cells produced in the world came from China and Taiwan (according to GTM Research). 

India is also in the race…In 2009, India invested $2.3 billion in clean energy—growing at over 72% over the last 5 years (according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance).  While India has consistently been one of the top countries for wind installations, it is also now embarking on a significant effort to deploy solar (as my colleague discussed).

US jogging?  While the US was 2nd in clean energy investment last year, it lost its top slot to China.  And if the European Union is considered as a whole the US would be in 3rd place (see this report from the Pew Charitable Trusts).  The US played a leading role in early stages of developing many of the clean energy technologies that are dominating the market today, yet on a number of fronts the US is lagging.  Sometime over the next 3 weeks, the US Senate will debate (and hopefully vote to pass) a climate and energy bill which will send a concrete signal that the US wants to be sprinting in the clean energy race.


So the energy ministers from these 20 countries meet with this backdrop in mind—a race for the clean energy future is happening as we speak and some are full of energy and others are unsure where they want to go.  These key countries will be making critical choices in the coming years—will they embrace clean energy or will they choose to sit on the sidelines. 

It is time for the US to get off the bench and invest in a clean energy future.

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